Are We Becoming Anti-Intellectual?


Almost ten years ago this article appeared in Christianity Today, an excerpt from a book by Rick M. Nanez, titled 'Full Gospel, Fractured Minds?'

In the article, the author raised some honest questions about prevailing negative attitudes towards intellectual pursuits within the Pentecostal tradition, but also remarked that these attitudes could be shown to have infiltrated the broader evangelical community. Given our increasing self-identification as "evangelicals", could these observations apply to us as well?

Is it possible, given our not-infrequent emphasis on surrendering to the Holy Spirit, and our regularly-mentioned preference of heart-knowledge over head-knowledge, that we, too, are at risk of throwing out the baby with the bath water and abandoning our long and strong tradition of intellectual exploration?

We may still point to the academic excellence demonstrated in our institutions of higher learning, and our culture-transforming support of Christian schools, but how often do we read comments in The Banner, and elsewhere, to the effect that paying attention to scientific inquiry will only lead us astray from a child-like faith?

I wonder if we are at risk. I wonder it this possibility deserves further study. I wonder whether the Calvin sociology department could, and should, design a survey to find out whether our preachers steer our parishioners towards, or away from, an intellectually vigorous Christian life. Something anonymous. Something that wouldn't get anyone in trouble. Just to get a picture of where we are headed, as a church, with Jesus. 

What do you think?

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Greetings John:

     I think you have latched on to something.  Where do you think ideas such as Lectio Divina recently popularized by those involved in Youth ministiries, spiritual directors who help to get in touch with inner feelings, and the widespread popularity of Richard Foster's the Celebration of Discipline come from?

   I would say these are a pendulum swing towards mysticism that is likely a reaction against hyper-intellectualism. But the pendulum has swung way too far, in my opinion. Without a critical thought, supposedly thinking, reading, analyzing Christian Reformed folk ditch their critical thinking and testing of the spirits capacity and jump on to what is clearly Roman Catholic/Quaker/Buddhist mysticism.

   It would appear that we continue to need "theology on fire." Nothing more and nothing less, or as even the motto of Calvin Seminary states, reflecting John Calvin "My heart I offer to you Lord: Promptly and Sincerely."







This is a good and healthy discussion to have. Two questions come to mind right away:

1. How would you define "heart-knowledge"?

2. To what extent is this anti-intellectualism part of a broader cultural trend?  Is it really an infiltration from Pentecostalism or is it just a reflection of where the culture is heading?  

Greetings Jeff:

   May I be a bit presumptuous and give a stab at the questions you ask?

 a. To be passionate about something actually requires propositional knowledge. That is to say the more in-depth knowledge that I have of the ways, likes, attitudes, of my wife, the more I can be passionate about her. That is to say my heart can be warmed by what I know of her in an intimate way. In a similar way, the more we know of Christ--and this is not just individually, but also corporately, the more passionate we can be about Him. This is what I would define as heart-knowledge.

b. A cultural trend. Well, I think that the critical thinking apparatus has been dumbed down without teaching in logic, rhetoric, critical analysis, but more on "well how do you feel about that?" That later question is everywhere these days. But I think this is where myticism can walk right in the door, and to my mind it is not only Pentacostalism---since some of the sharpest and most analytical minds I know are Pentacostals--but also the effects of a therapeutic Gospel which responds to "how can we make these people feel good?" rather than a Gospel which asks "how can we help these people to think rightly and feel accordingly."